DEMOCRACY: Voting and not voting in Hungary

From Thailand, Hungarian Steve Torok writes: In a democracy, the right to vote includes the right not to vote, as we know well in America, but not in Thailand or Australia where not voting involves some penalties. Not voting simply means that on the issues concerned we let others decide.  This was well illustrated in the recent (December 5, 2004) referendum in Hungary on whether Hungarians living outside the current boundaries of Hungary should have a right to a Hungarian passport. I am strongly partial to a yes on this, since as a 1956 refugee and US citizen at the time of the political changes in Hungary I was given a Hungarian passport, sent after me by diplomatic courrier to Cambodia, where I served at the time as a UN peace-keeper. It meant to me that I was no longer a political exile.  Now for the referendum:it passed with a slim majority, not binding on the Government because of the low voter turnout (around forty percent, just as in Spain's EU constitution referendum ). Nevertheless I believe this will eventually lead to the fall of the Gyurcsany government of reform Socialists allied with Liberals, because they had the bad taste of, first, campaigning against a "yes" vote than, in even worse taste, celebrating "victory" because of the low voter turnout and slim majority the decision to admit Hungarians to the nation was not binding on them.

RH:  I must confess that I do not follow Hungarian politics too closely. Last year, Peter Medgyessy was Prime Minister, and  Ferenc Gyurcsany was Minister of Children, Youth and Sports in his cabinet, which would seem to be a secondary position. He must have made the jump to Prime Minister. Steve is clearly angry, but I am not well enough informed to take sides. The legal obligation to vote in some countries is a WAISworthy subject.

Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: February 27, 2005